Saturday, May 31, 2014

Interview with lawyer of El Haqed (Al Haqed/L7a9ed) + more

Freemuse's Daniel Brown (son of Kenneth Brown, editor of Mediterraneans/Méditerranéennes) interviewed Mohemed Messoudi, the lawyer of imprisoned Moroccan rapper El Haqed, on May 27 and a member of the Administrative Committee of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. Here is some of what we learn:

Did El Haqed recently compose and release songs that could have angered the authorities?
“He has just released an album called Walou which means ‘Nothing’ (nothing has changed in the fields of justice, education, democracy, there is too much corruption and we are living under a dictatorship, with torture, etc…). The presentation (sic) of the album has already been banned by the Moroccan authorities. There has also been several of Haqed’s concerts that have been vetoed.”

How would you describe the current situation for musicians in Morocco?
“It’s simple: If you sing for the governors and the statesmen you are given the support that you need – money, publicity and the possibility of performing at festivals and on stage. You can even be decorated. If you take the opposite stance and dare criticise the current political, economic and social situation in the country, you run the risk of going to prison and you are banned from playing or appearing in any (official) media.”

...can this album [Walou] can be found in stores?
“No, you can not find this album in stores in Morocco, as Haqed criticizes the Moroccan political system, no distributor agrees to cooperate with him, the only option is direct sale to people who are interested in his music and also via social networks facebook youtube, and so on, and yes, there were sales using its own means.”

NOTE: go here, on Youtube, for the song "Walou," and it will lead you to all the other songs on the album. Nearly 71,000 views of the song. Let's bump those numbers up!]

What is the popularity of El Haqed?
“Considering he is banned by all media and official festivals because of his activism and political positions, EL Haqed finds his popularity via social media. His songs are listened to by thousands of people on Youtube. His first arrest was adopted by Amnesty International and several  international and national human rights associations.”

What are the political views of Haqed?
“He criticizes the corruption, which reigns the political, economic and social life. Considering his reputation and sincerity to the Moroccan people – his voice and his songs disturb authorities more and more.”

Here is a link to a petition to sign in support of El Haqed.

When the interview was done El Haqed was scheduled to appear before the court for a hearing on May 29. Facebook connections now say that it has been rescheduled for June 6. [Update, a few minutes after the original post: Mark Levine notes that the postponement means that El Haqed conveniently will be kept out of public view until the Mawazine festival (see below) is almost over.}

At his first court hearing (he was arrested May 18) he is reported to have said to the judge "Prison won't make me cry. I am free wherever I am. What makes me weep is the plight of the [Moroccan] people."

Meanwhile, international artists like Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Alicia Keys, IAM and Robert Plant are appearing at Mawazine, the state-sponsored festival in Rabat, from May 30 to June 7. There has been a campaign to get at least some of these artists to at least say something in solidarity with El Haqed, but to date I've heard nothing of such a response. If it were Russia and Pussy Riot, of course, there would be a big international fuss. But even the most progressive artists (seriously, IAM!) seem to think that the makhzen is "moderate" and so shouldn't be criticized. The not so progressive I guess are just happy to get the pay check. 

It is not of course El Haqed who is the target of state repression. According to this report from ABC on May 29, 

Morocco's most prominent independent rights group, the Moroccan Association for Human Rights, has been sounding the alarm since March, saying that many of its young activists around the country face police intimidation.

Veteran activist Samira Kinani cited the case of Oussama Housne, a 22-year-old activist who, in a video posted online, said he was snatched by three men, beaten and tortured.

Last month, police arrested 11 young activists who had joined a large labor union demonstration and chanted anti-monarchy slogans, later sentencing them to up to a year in prison for illegally protesting and attacking police.

"It is a campaign of repression against the weakest young members of the February 20 movement," said Kinani. "Unlike us they did not live through the dark period of King Hassan II and they aren't scared to express their opinions against the king for example, so I think they are trying to scare them into quitting activist circles."

My previous post on El Haqed, with details on his arrest, is here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Another Palestinasjal (Swedish for Palestinian Kufiya) in the Sunday New York Times

Actresses Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin and Liv LeMoyne (in kufiya). Credit: Magnolia Pictures

It's the same film as before, Lukas Moodysson's We Are the Best!, about three Swedish girls who start a punk band in the early 80s. I spotted this, along with Marc Spitz's review, in the print edition of the New York Times on Sunday, May 28, 2014. It sounds like a great film.

And I will tell you once again: in Sweden they simply call the kufiya a Palestinasjal or Palestinian scarf. The film is based on a graphic novel by the filmmaker's wife Coco Moodysson's, which recounts her experiences as a young punk in the early 80s. Kufiyas were there, as they were in the US.

Madonna, NYC, early 80s.

Cheikha (rai) 45" record jackets

Several writers on rai have observed that it was common practice in the '80s for the jackets of rai cassettes of the chabas (female rai singers of the "pop-rai" era) to feature European-looking models or a picturesque view of the Algerian countryside, while photos of the chebs (male singers) themselves adorned their cassettes. When I was combing through rai cassettes in the Barbès district of Paris in summer 1992, I saw dozens of examples, but unfortunately I don't think I bought any (or if I did I can't locate any) and I can't find any online. (You'll just have to believe me).

Lately I've been checking out vintage recordings of songs by cheikhas, the female singers of rai who preceded the chabas, and notice something interesting -- that the practice of decorating the chaba cassettes in this manner was probably simply a continuation of the way in which 45" cheikha record jackets were decorated. Check these out, for instance. (I can't source all of these, some are from Youtube videos, and some from this great website, Mes 45 Tours, and some from Toukadime's instagram site. Check both out for more fabulous record jackets.)

What is interesting here is that whereas the chabas were doing numbers of a decidedly "modern" character (with Western instruments and all), the recordings of the cheikhas are all backed by simply gasba (reed flute) and guellal (hand-held frame drum) and are much more "folkloric." (The cheikhas however were entirely the product of "modern" processes, in particular, the dispossession of the Algerian peasantry, and the subjects of their songs equally "modern": love, the problems of marginal women, drinking, migration, etc. In any case, the apparent discrepancy between the covers of these 45's and the "sound" of the music is quite remarkable. (And hopefully someone who reads this will have something more to say on the subject.)  

Cheikha Yamina el-Abbasia (the Abbasia refers to Sidi-Bel-Abbès). I don't have even any rudimentary information about her.

Cheikha Habiba Labassia was a star of the sixties. I'm fairly certain this is not a photo of her. It shows that not all jackets depicted Europeans, but this gallery demonstrates that it was pretty routine.

Another Cheikha Habiba Labassia (Abbassia) cover.

And one more. Super song.

Cheikha Habiba Saghira ("Little" Habiba, in reference to the "big" or original Habiba, Habiba Labassia), who was a star of the seventies and eighties. Another cover that does not feature a European, but it is a young and glamorous girl who is no doubt not the cheikha.)

Another Habiba Saghira. This is a great song, "Yasker ou Yebki," (He drinks and cries)

Cheikha Zallamite (or, Zalamite), from Saïda. I can't find this song, but check out this.

Cheikha Djenia (1954-2004) was born in Marhoum, a village close to Saïda, and her career lasted from 1970 until her death. Read more about her here. Here's one of her "folkloric" recordings.

And with Djenia we actually have a recording with a picture of the star in question. And as you can see from this video her performing live, you'll note that she eventually went electric.

Chaba Zoulikha. This is interesting because (1) it's possibly a photo of Zoulikha herself and (2) Zoulikha (1957-94) was not a rai chaba, but a Berber singer of chaoui music from the Aurès in Eastern Algeria. Check out the video of her live performance of the song "Soba Rach Rach" (in Berber song, not Arabic). I don't know why she is advertised here as though she was a rai singer, as she is almost always referred to as simply Zoulikha.

And of course the most famous of the cheikhas, Cheikha Remitti (more commonly spelled Rimitti). A great recording from the sixties.

And another one from Remitti. Great song.

And this is a photo of Rimitti that probably dates from before she became famous in the world music scene, in the late eighties.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pope and Baby Jesus Kufiya vs. Hillary Clinton

Yes, Pope Francis was in Palestine. He famously made a stop at the infamous separation barrier/apartheid wall at Bethlehem, and prayed as he rested his head against this.

Please contrast the Pope at the Wall to Hillary Clinton and what she said about it 2005, when as a Senator she visited Israel: "This is not against the Palestinian people," Clinton said as she gazed over the massive wall. "This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism." 

Meanwhile, the Pope also conducted a mass at Jesus' birthplace, in Manger Square in Bethlehem, in front of a mural featuring the baby Jesus wrapped in kufiya swaddling clothes.

By contrast, when Hillary visits Israel/Palestine, she prefers to look tough, even visionary, in front of the wall.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

mahraganat fatty: Hamboullah

There is a side to Egypt's mahraganat (electro shaabi) scene that is not likely to be exported, or to even get much outside exposure. This guy: Hamboullah.

Why won't he? Beer belly. Balding. He doesn't look like a rock star. (Compare him say to MC Sadat.) But check it out: as of this posting, over 1.7 million views. He's popular enough in Egypt. And amazing. (Thanks to Hammer for pointing him out to me.)

Friday, May 23, 2014

dances with drones: MIA and Eleven Play (Japan)

Two more examples of drones in pop culture:

MIA has just released a new, self-directed video, of her song "Double Bubble Trouble" from the album Matangi. It's another one of MIA's patented full-of-radical-gestures and a wild stew of images. The main issues she seems to raise are "violence" -- and the danger that this might proliferate as guns are made with 3D printers -- and drones -- which in the vid seem to be both agents of surveillance and targeted killings. (There is a quick shot of a poster on a wall that says: "Drone Survival Guide.") The drones that circle above the dancers at the end of the video are in the shape of peace signs. And MIA warns us that "1984 is Now." Go watch it, see what you think, MIA puts these things out there to raise controversy and discussion, as far as I can tell.

And then there's this beautiful and much more easily read drone dance from the Japanese troupe Eleven Play (courtesy Dangerous Minds). And I think Dangerous Minds says it all: [the troupe] manages to utilize drone technology for art and beauty, while simultaneously depicting all of its potential insidiousness. At first the dancers interact cautiously and experimentally with the drones, then the machines become more active and more threatening. With no control over the increasingly volatile technology, the women flee the stage in fear. In the end, the only ones left dancing are the drones themselves

And the Palestinians in Gaza who live with Israeli drones constantly in the air call them: zanana
Meaning variously, "a wife’s relentless nagging", or "to nag with drone-like talk."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Noura chante en français (plus "Yamma Goulili")

I don't know how I happened onto Algerian singer Noura. But somewhere I came across her It is via a post on phonomundial that I came across Algerian singer Noura's recording, "Paris dans mon sac" (Paris in my purse), and I just loved it. And now I've come across the cover for the EP that the song is from, called "Noura Chante En Français," recorded in France in 1965 on the Pathé label. Apparently it was an effort to do something in the yé-yé style. I love this EP cover as well.

As far as I can determine, these four songs are the only ones that Noura ever did in French. The rest of her vast repertoire was recorded in Arabic or Kabyle. It has been claimed that she was the first Maghrebi artist to have a gold record in France, but I've found no evidence of this. 

It's too bad, because these are great songs and you would never know that French was not Noura's first language. Nor would you guess that the composer of "Paris dans mon sac" was Noura's husband, the singer and composer Kamal Hamadi (given name: Larbi Zeggane).  You can read about the linked careers of Noura and Kamal Hamadi here.

Here's a link to a vimeo link to "Paris Dans Mon Sac." And here is a link to "Cette Vie." You can purchase both these songs plus "Les Grilles" at emusic or iTunes. But I've not been able to track down "La Maison."

But for an even bigger treat, check out this video, dating from 1959, doing "Yamma Goulili," from Algerian (colonial) television. She is only 17. It is this year that she married Kamal Hamadi. This song sounds like it might be one of those composed for her by the great Ahmad Wahby, in the modern ouahrani (Orani) style. Isn't the band just terrific?


Monday, May 19, 2014

Moroccan Rapper Al Haqed (El Haqed/L7a9ed) Arrested Again

Yesterday, May 18, the Moroccan rapper Al Haqed (Mouad Belghouat) and a group of his friends approached by police while about to enter the Casablanca soccer stadium to see a match. The cops targeted Al Haqed, accused him of buying tickets on the black market, and proceeded to beat up him and his brother.

According to the blog of Zineb Belmkaddem, the source for this information, the day before Al Haqed put up a post on Facebook "mocking the fact that the King was going to perform Friday’s Jumuah prayer, and on his way there, a traditional music group was playing. In Islam, this would be highly disrespectful given the spiritual solemnity of Jumuah prayer, and an even bigger mistake to be made by the ‘Commander of the Faithful’ who claims part of the legitimacy of his rule from his religious status." 

Who knows whether the arrest is linked to the post, but it no doubt has everything to do with the fact that Al Haqed refuses to shut up about the repressive acts of the Moroccan government, the makhzen.

Al Haqed was supposed to appear before a judge today.

I've posted about Al Haqed and his problems with the Moroccan authorities a few times in the past. And I've also ranted about the fact that Pussy Riot gets so much support and attention in the West, and especially from US artists, while almost no one seems to care about Al Haqed. Consider this another rant.

Videos of Al Haqed's most famous song "Klab al-dawla" or "The Dogs of the State" keep getting shut down. Here's another link to it.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mizrahis and the Holocaust

Batya Shimony recently published an article called "Being a Mizrahi Jew, an Israeli and touching the Holocaust" at 972 (May 10, 2014). A lot of fascinating stuff here. Just a couple excerpts:

Living in Israel as a Mizrahi means growing up in a society that sanctifies the memory of the Holocaust and turns it into symbolic capital that is passed on from father to son. At the same time, it means belonging to an excluded group that is devoid of status, whose history and chronicles are of no interest except to the extent that they pertain to a colorful folklore or affirm the Zionist rescue narrative...

And this, which really made me want to read Yossi Sucary:

Lea Aini in Rose of Lebanon (2009) and Yossi Sucary in Benghazi-Bergen-Belsen (2013) claim their own family and community’s part in the established historical memory of the Holocaust. In both cases the survivors’ experience of the Holocaust had not been acknowledged by the establishment, and despite having undergone such terrible suffering they received no recognition whatsoever from the Israeli public and memorial institutions.

Aini describes her father, an Auschwitz survivor: “[h]e sits there on the eve of the Holocaust Memorial Day, scrunched under his robe, already perched across from the TV that repeatedly broadcasts the appropriate programs and films, which offer no mention of the Jews of Greece – thus, Father continued sacrificing himself, and us, on the altar of Survival, as if none of it had ever ended” (228). The terrible rage that built up inside him was violently directed at his family members.

Rage is where Sucary’s novel begins, telling the story of a group of Libyan Jews that were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The many reviews written about the novel highlighted the historical importance of the issue that had finally been brought into public awareness. However, Sucary was not only seeking to present the common fate shared by Libyan and European Jews. His main aim was to show the hatred of Jews directed at their own brethren, and how the European Jews themselves abused the Libyan Jews. The last part of the novel describes the horrors of the concentration camp through the eyes of Silvana, the central protagonist.

From her first encounter with the Ashkenazi prisoners in the camp, she is marked out as a “darkie,” as someone who is “not one of our own.” Her “inferior” status, owing to her ethnicity, enables one of the prisoners to harass her, verbally abuse her and sexually assault her. Finally, he sets up a trap for her, seducing her to a remote spot where she is degraded and raped by three Dutch kapos.

The descriptions of the brutality shown towards Silvana by the European Jews seem far more extreme than those of the Germans. When dealing with the Germans, Silvana is resourceful and manages to find solutions, while in her encounters with the Ashkenazi Jews she is humiliated in the most extreme and vulgar way. As she’s being raped, a thought crosses her mind: “who could save her? Her own white Jewish brethren, who treated her as though she were a human animal that weaseled her way into their group?” (299).

These descriptions illustrate the novel’s underlying agenda, which is not merely to depict the experience of the Libyan Jews in the Holocaust, but also, and perhaps mainly, to protest against the condescending and hurtful attitude the Ashkenazi Jews had towards them. This was the same attitude the Libyan Jews were shown later on, upon their arrival in Israel.

Sucary's Benghazi-Bergen-Belsen was published in Hebrew. The only translation of his work available is, apparently, Emilia et le sel de la terre -- but in French. It sounds like a great read.

Shoutout from Phocéephone

I glanced at the great North Africa music blog Phocéephone today and noticed that it links to this blog, and has the kindest description.

Who wouldn't want to be described as 'drôle et pertinent'?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

weird vet kufiya

My friend John grabbed this off of some vet FB page and sent it to me. We don't know who took the photo or what the story is behind it but it's one of those images that is floating around. I have no idea what to make of it. I'm befuddled.

The baseball cap says 'kafir' in Arabic, which is correctly translated as infidel. A synonym is unbeliever. I believe that Islamist insurgents in Iraq fighting against the US occupation would have used this term fairly routinely to describe the US military forces. I did not know that (some) US troops had embraced the term.

Just plain weird, to rest your sleeping baby in a red kufiya with gun shells and some sort of weapon behind him/her....

Keef Kufiya

Yep, Keith Richards, spotted in kufiya (Thanks, Laurie!). This is courtesy the Keith Fucking Richards Facebook page. I have no other info about the photo.

I feel pretty confident in thinking that this is a fashion and not a political statement. I'm not a huge fan of the cultural boycott movement, and I believe you can be at least sympathetic towards the Palestinians and still play concerts in Israel -- but just for the record the Rolling Stones are playing a concert there this summer.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Walls of Freedom - Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution

This looks like a terrific book.

According to the publisher

This book is a crowd-sourced and crowd-funded collaboration of 100 Photographers, 50 Artists and 20 Authors.

“Walls of Freedom” is a powerful portrayal of the first three years of the Egyptian revolution that began on January 25, 2011.The story is told through striking images of art that transformed Egypt's walls into a visual testimony of bravery and resistance. Created in close collaboration with artists on the frontlines of the battle, the book documents how they converted the streets into a dynamic newspaper of the people, providing a much needed alterna
tive to the propaganda-fueled media. 

Go here to purchase and for a preview. The visuals really are stunning. This is one of my favorites. It dates from January 2012, when the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) was in control, and it says "The Army Above All." In the rubble with the skulls is a poster with one of the chief slogans of the revolution: "Bread. Freedom. Social Justice." The piece was very apt at the time of production and it was also very prescient, considering the political direction that Egypt is currently headed.

 And here is a vid about the project.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Pew Center report on illegal immigration by boat to Europe; one-quarter of them now from Syria, 18% from Eritrea

Here's the report, from April 30, 2014.

Some interesting data.

'Nearly 300 migrants drowned last year just half a mile off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, and in the last week the Italian navy has rescued thousands from the rough seas off the Sicilian coast.'

'Boat migrants comprise less than 10% of the more than 1 million new immigrants entering the European Union from non-EU countries by air, land or sea each year. But among those known to have arrived illegally in 2013, over half came by sea – the highest percentage in recent years, according to Frontex.' 

'Today, roughly a quarter originate from Syria, often crossing through several countries before taking the final voyage from ports in Egypt or Libya.'

'A large number of migrants by sea come to Europe from countries in sub-Saharan Africa; Eritrea has surpassed Somalia as the leading country of origin in that region.'

And a very useful map:

 And a chart, showing that Eritrea is now the source of 18% of illegal boat immigrants to Europe.

List of 17.306 migrants who died trying to enter Fortress Europe

List of documented deaths, courtesy United for Intercultural Action.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Kufiya (or, Palestinasjal) in today's Sunday New York Times

In the special Summer Movies section of the Arts & Style part of today's New York Times (May 4, 2015), there is an article, "New Faces Bringing the Heat in Summer Movies" which features this photo.

From left, Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar and Mira Grosin. Credit Magnolia Pictures 

These are the stars of a new Swedish movie, Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! It's about three non-conformist 13-year-old Stockholm girls who start a punk band. The girl who wears the kufiya is described as follows: "The electric Ms. Grosin’s Klara seems born to be a frontwoman, driving scenes forward with her bravado."

I've mentioned before that the kufiya is so ubiquitous in Sweden that it is simply called a Palestinasjal or Palestinian scarf. 

There was even a flap in Sweden last summer when an Iraqi refugee gave Sweden's king and queen a couple kufiya scarves that he had made himself and asked them to pose for a photo wearing them. Unbeknownst to the royal pair, the scarves also had the slogan inscribed on them, "Al Aqsa is ours and is not their temple."